Radical rules in practice

In 1971, Saul Alinsky wrote the book “Rules for Radicals,” a guidebook for grass-roots organizations to get the better of government and corporations. Known as the “father of modern American radicalism,” Alinsky was not bothered by using any means to attain his end. He referred to people who were overly bothered by means-ends justification as “Non-Doers.”

Among the rules you may recognize in general political use today are these:

RULE 5: “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.”

RULE 10: “If you push a negative hard enough, it will push through and become a positive.”

RULE 12: “Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it and polarize it.”

While Alinsky’s tactics were designed for use to promote leftist causes (the have-nots vs. the haves), they have been adopted by both the left and right today. Why? Because they work and they are easy to use.

They work wonderfully in elections, too.

It is easier to ridicule an opponent than debate him; far simpler to demonize someone on the other side than to defend the ideas of yours. Better yet, just make up an insulting nickname for each of your political opponents and keep using it until it becomes ingrained in the minds of your followers. (Crooked Hillary, Lyin’ Ted, Pocahontas, Low IQ Maxine, Little Marco — sound familiar?)

In fact, a simple summary of the new rules of our politics is that the winner is the one who stays on the attack. The loser is the one who pauses to consider the other side’s point of view and tries to engage in a civilized debate over the issues.

No time for that when acting like a 4th-grade bully works better.

(Portions of this editorial have appeared previously in The Maui News.)

* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.

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